Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City eyes housing for Charleswood

Development stirs conflicting views

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IN a move with major implications for the tight Winnipeg housing market, about 30 Charleswood property owners are preparing to open up the largest chunk of the city to new housing since Waverley West was approved in 2005.

Over the past year, land developer Qualico and dozens of other property owners have been working with city planners to come up with a plan to allow new homes and apartment buildings to rise in a broad triangle of southwest Charleswood known as Ridgewood South.

For decades, this 800-acre swath of partly forested land has resisted development due to the logistical complexity of extending roads, sewers and watermains into a patchwork of land with multiple property owners, the largest being Qualico, which holds roughly 60 per cent of the land.

But the rising demand for new housing in Winnipeg -- and relative absence of units in Charleswood -- has made the development of Ridgewood South appear more feasible. In 2011, Qualico started putting together a plan that could eventually see 5,700 to 8,800 people live on what's now mostly vacant land between Ridgewood Avenue and Wilkes Avenue.

A development plan for the area is slated to be presented to Charleswood residents in April, as a prelude to a public hearing at city council some time this summer or fall, said principal city planner John Wintrup.

In a best-case scenario, new roads, sewers and watermains would be extended into Ridgewood South in 2013 and construction of homes and apartments would begin in 2014, Wintrup said. Ridgewood South would take another 10 to 15 years to completely build out.

Charleswood Coun. Paula Havixbeck sees the proposed development as a chance to finally allow seniors, young professionals and young families in her ward an opportunity to remain there instead of being forced to move to other areas of the city.

"People tend to want to stay in the same neighbourhoods and they don't want to move out. There's not a lot of options in Charleswood right now," Havixbeck said. "Even my own executive assistant was forced to move to another ward."

But while some Charleswood residents may applaud the development, others living near what will eventually be Ridgewood South are concerned the influx of new people will transform what's now the city's leafiest suburb -- Charleswood has more natural areas than any other city ward -- into a bland McSuburb.

Victoria Macdonald is among a group of Charleswood residents who have been urging the city to ensure Ridgewood South will preserve more than the minimum amount of natural areas demanded by city land-development regulations.

"A lot of people moved here because of the character of the neighbourhood. We don't want another Sage Creek on our doorstep," Macdonald said.

Fellow activist Al Roberts is concerned the development will proceed without adequate improvements to major traffic arteries such as the two-lane Wilkes Avenue, as well as the intersection of Wilkes and the Perimeter Highway.

The transportation concerns are legitimate, said planner Wintrup, who said the city will hire a consultant to figure out what needs to be done to regional roads in the area.

Preserving forested areas may be more difficult, however, as the city cannot dictate what happens to trees, shrubs and grasslands on private property, Wintrup added.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 12, 2012 B1

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